As of today, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the internet’s governing body, in a sense), is accepting applications for new generic Top Level Domains, or gTLDs. Don’t worry, I’m out of acronyms. These new gTLDs could be just about anything. What is this and why is this important and / or stupid? You’ll have to find out after the jump. Don’t worry, there’s video to make it fun!
As usual, some background first. So ICANN is the body that coordinates the Domain Name System, or DNS. Whoops, sorry I guess I did have one more acronym. Fucking internet is loaded with them. ANYWAY, what DNS does is convert numbers to letters. As I’ve mentioned a hundred times before, every computer on the internet has an IP address that is a series of numbers, in the form xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx where xxx is a number from 0 to 255. Those computers on the internet include computers that host websites. But it would be impossible for people who can barely remember phone numbers to type a string of 12 numbers in the address box of a browser. So the DNS handily converts the IP address 188.8.131.52 into the domain name allenmendelsohn.com, which is easy to remember. Well, except for the fact I spell both my names kinda weirdly.
As anyone with a browser knows, the last part of any web address is usually pretty easy – .com, .org, .net, .ca, etc. These are “top level domains”, or TLDs. They can be generic (gTLD) like the .com, or a country code (ccTLD) like .ca. BUT, there really is no technical reason why a web address ending couldn’t be just about anything. Already recently ICANN added a bunch of new gTLDs, like .info and .tv and .xxx (rowr!). So as of today, ICANN will now allow anything as the TLD. Don’t like my explanation? Let the dulcet tones of the nondescript international accent in this ICANN video explain it to you:
Wasn’t that fun? So why wouldn’t you want your own gTLD? Well, the title of this post, not to mention the friendly lady in the video explain it pretty well. It costs $185,000. And that is just to apply. If your application is accepted, you will be responsible for all the administration, both technical and everything else. So there are going to be a ton of costs associated with that. My legal fees aren’t high enough (yet) to afford that.
Now I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, “great Allen, this was a wonderful explanation of a technical thing on the internet. But what does it have to do with internet law, which ostensibly is what your blog is about?” Good question, dear reader. Well, it’s pretty simple – the lawsuits are coming! Let’s say both Coke and Pepsi apply to have the gTLD .cola, so their domain names could be coca.cola or pepsi.cola. Only one of the companies can have the gTLD. And the company that doesn’t get it is gonna be pissed. Angry companies mean lawsuits! ICANN has a whole system of dispute resolution in place for domain name disputes. It can include the courts, arbitration, or some administrative processes. It’s gonna get ugly. Well, for the companies. Us internet lawyers are going to make a killing.